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NFL Playoffs: Bengals clinch scenarios and rooting interests

Here's how the Bengals can clinch a berth in the NFL playoffs prior to the Sunday games.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After the Chargers rallied past the 49ers on Saturday night, the Bengals can no longer clinch a playoff berth this week without getting a win over the Broncos on Monday Night Football.

It looks like 9 isn't going to be the magic number for Cincinnati now, as they'll probably have to win one more game to get to 10 wins and either win the AFC North, or claim on of the two wild-card spots.

As for who Cincinnati needs to root for this week, it depends on how you look at their playoff odds. Do they have a better chance of beating Denver on Monday, or winning at Pittsburgh next week, or neither?

If you say Denver, then you want the Chiefs to beat the Steelers this week in addition to the Texans beating the Ravens. That would allow the Bengals to clinch the AFC North with a win Monday.

The same holds true if you think the Bengals have a better shot at the wild card. If the Bengals lose this week, they still win the North with a win at Pittsburgh next week, but the Ravens also will need to lose one of their final two games for that to happen. This week at Houston is their best chance to lose, considering they host the lowly Browns in Week 17.

However, if you think the Bengals won win again, their best chance at making it to the playoffs is hoping the Chiefs, Bills and Chargers all lose at least one more game, or two of those three happen in addition to the Ravens losing out. The Chargers play at KC next week, so root for the Steelers to beat the Chiefs this week. That puts them at 8-7 facing a 9-6 Chargers squad next week with KC needing to win for the Bengals to get a wild-card spot.

The Bills face the Raiders this week, so root for Oakland to pull off the improbable win. Buffalo plays at New England next week, so there's their best shot to lose again.

In other words, the Bengals clinch a playoff berth with a win this week or Week 17 at Pittsburgh. They win the North with at least one win and one Steelers and Ravens loss in the final two games. Cincy only gets a wild-card spot if they lose out by Buffalo, San Diego and Kansas City all losing one more game, or two of those three happening in addition to the Ravens losing out.


Cincinnati clinches the AFC North with:

1) Bengals win plus Steelers loss plus Ravens loss or tie

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) Bengals win OR
2) Bengals tie plus Ravens loss OR
3) Bengals tie plus Chiefs loss or tie plus Chargers loss or tie OR
4) Chiefs loss plus Chargers loss plus Bills loss or tie